A CORK County Council project to develop the first new railway lines in the State in more than 100 years has taken the top prize in this year's Irish Planning Institute (IPI) National Planning Awards.
The plan to construct a suburban rail network for Cork received the IPI Planning Achievement Award, and was one of four projects recognised by the institute for their contribution to the quality of life in urban and rural areas.
The council's project is the result of 30 years of transport planning in the city and is due to begin running its first trains next year.
The IPI judging team said the new service would result in the "revitalisation of a number of key towns and villages while promoting the move to more sustainable modes of transport".
The Urban Design Award went to Murray O'Laoire Architects for the Athlone Town Centre. The town had fallen into decline and had become isolated over the years, but the new town centre development which encompassed retail, residential and public spaces, had transformed the town with a "new urban quarter of exceptional architectural quality and coherence," the IPI said.
The recently redeveloped Custom House Quay (CHQ)building in Dublin's docklands received the Conservation Award. The protected structure, originally a bonded warehouse built in 1852, was reopened last November by Dublin Docklands Development Authority following a €50 million redevelopment.
The project had saved a building that was close to dereliction and had helped revitalise George's Quay in what was an "outstanding conservation project of national historical and architectural importance", the institute said.
The Participatory Planning Award, which recognises public bodies who involved the public in new developments went to Kinvara Community Council for its Integrated Area Plan. Public participation had been at the "very root" of the project for the redevelopment of the area, the IPI said.
Certificates of merit were presented in each of the categories. Planning Achievement certificates went to O'Mahony Pike for the North Drogheda Environs Masterplan and to South Dublin County Council for the Tallaght Integrated Area Plan 1999-2008.
An Urban Design certificate went to the National Building Agency and Cork City Council for the Special Needs and Social Housing and Artists' Residence and Studio, Shandon, Cork.
A Conservation certificate was awarded to Cork County Council for the Guidance Note for the Appraisal of Historic Gardens, Demesnes, Estates and their Settings. A Participatory Planning certificate was won by South Dublin County Council for the Lucan Village Design Statement.
The Cork rail project will now go forward as Ireland's entry in the European Planning Awards which this year will be hosted by the IPI and take place in Dublin Castle in October.
Speaking at the awards, Minister for the Environment John Gormley said the awards highlighted the high quality that could be achieved in planning.
The Irish Times